“The Little Engine That Could” #44

Posted on April 6, 2011

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Now that I’m living with my parents, I’m no longer just living for myself.  I have my mother’s pride and reputation to think about.  So when she volunteer’s my services to her neighbor who needs a babysitter, I try to step forth in the best light possible.  I certainly could use the money, but I’ve never really considered myself a “baby” person. I mean, when my niece was born fifteen years ago, I did some babysitting and apparently I was pretty good.  It’s just not something I dream about doing – hanging out with little dependents who need me to be responsible.  So, when I wake up today severely hungover from last night’s drinks and start talking to Vito who’s big head is on my pillow, like I’m still drunk and he’s someone I brought home from the bar (“So, I don’t usually do this on the first night, but you and I just really connected…”), I immediately regret my decision to wake up at this ungodly hour of 8am and take care of another human being.  What was I thinking?

I show up three houses down with a big fake smile on my face, ready to take care of Arthur, the adorable little 2-year-old who deserves someone way more sober and into this than me.

Little Arthur just stares at me, with his overalls and floppy hair, and I want to scream whisper at him, “Don’t say anything!  It was only three apple martinis, and your mother doesn’t need to know.”

We spend the next few hours playing trucks, sipping apple juice out of sippy cups, and doing puppet shows with socks.  Really, what I’m feeling is, I’m so not into this bullshit.  I’m way too cool to be spending time with 2-year-olds.  I would rather be shaking my ass on the dance floor…

I offer him some mozzarella string cheese, and he doesn’t want it – but I certainly do – so I eat his whole goddamn supply.  He wants cheddar bunnies, so I give him those.

I could be throwing back some shots of scotch.  Or maybe writing in the back of a café somewhere sporting a beret expressing the torment of my soul.  THAT would be cooler than this.

He yawns.  He really is cute.  And smart.  But, so what?  I’m cute and smart, and I’m still single. 

Little Arthur and I are sitting on the cushy couch after I change his diaper, (Oh boy wasn’t that the highlight of my day!  I don’t see nearly enough number 2 from my dog.) And he yawns again.  Then sleepily he just says one word, “Story.” 

“Ok, let’s read a story,” I say and pick up one of the first books I see on the floor, THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD.   I start reading it to him just mechanically, saying the words with no feeling.  It’s funny, because I distinctly remember begging my mother to read me this book over and over.  I wonder why I liked it so much.

As I’m reading, I start getting pulled in.  Why does no one want to help out this train full of toys that need to get to the children?  Why is everyone so selfish, or tired or negative or so full of themselves?  Why does everyone keep saying NO? 

Arthur is glued as I’m turning the pages so he can see the pictures.  Then, I get to the part where the little blue engine agrees to help, despite her smallness.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.  Tears well up in my eyes and start dropping down.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I am full out sobbing, and Arthur is just looking at me, the freak-show babysitter.  I want to tell him, “Look kid, these assholes out there are gonna make you feel small sometimes, but you’ve got to keep believing in yourself.  Hold on to your dream, and don’t let anyone stop you.”  I want to tell him this the way no one told me. 

Arthur falls asleep against me, and I just hold him there for what feels like forty minutes.  I’m not sure who is the client in this babysitting service.

I get home and as soon as I walk in the house, my father wants to know how much I made and what am I going to do with the money.  My mother looks at my puffy eyes and says, “What’d you do now?”

I go upstairs to my refuge, where I see constant reminders of my 5-year-old, 11-year-old, 13-year-old, and 17-year-old self, and I sit on my bed with my back against the wall.  I want to journal about this, but I all I feel are those words, I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I think about the ways we all struggle – the way we each have mountains before us – how we’re so easily tricked into thinking we can’t.  That we’re too small.  Too insignificant.  Too weak to win, because life is just too hard.

But how precious it is that we are all little magicians…and despite our “tininess,” we just have to say the words with a modicum of faith and an ounce of belief – with no idea how we’ll make it out of the darkness but we go for the light anyway — I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.

And then, we can.

What really made my eyes so puffy today was the ending of the story.  The Little Engine makes it over the mountain, the way I hope to one day, and you know what she says?   “I thought I could.  I thought I could.  I thought I could.”

Posted in: Humor